Chapter 51



Sam walked along the festively decorated streets of Hyde Park Village. She was looking forward to attending the tree lighting ceremony with Tina and there was a pronounced spring to her step. Arriving at Exclusive Travel, she opened the door and went inside. Brenda was busy talking on the phone, but she greeted the visitor with a smile and waved her toward the back of the agency.


Treading quietly, Sam made her way to Tina’s office and poked her head in. Her partner was studying data on the computer monitor and the blonde was able to watch undetected for a few moments. Just looking at her still takes my breath away. My dream-come-true. And it’s more than I ever imagined it would be.


Tina finished proofreading the report she’d been working on and clicked the print icon. Glad I got that done. Samantha should be here soon. She rolled her shoulders, trying to alleviate the stiffness that had come from sitting and typing for so long.


“Mind if I help?” Sam moved into the room and went behind the desk. Placing her hands on Tina’s shoulders, she gently massaged the tense muscles.


“That feels wonderful.”


“Good.” You deserve to feel wonderful.


The dark-haired woman swiveled the chair around and pulled Sam onto her lap. “Hi.”


“Hi.” The musician tugged playfully on Tina’s denim button-down collar. My favorite shirt! She took notice of the khaki slacks and brown hiking boots that completed the outfit. “No jeans today?”


“Well, I thought I’d put on something different for this hot date I have tonight.”


Sam grinned, enjoying the close-up view of blue eyes twinkling from behind the glasses she wished Tina would wear more often. “Hot date, huh?”


“VERY hot.” The claim was substantiated with a kiss.


“Mmmm… I see what you mean. I’m beginning to feel warm already.”


They kissed again, until a knock at the door interrupted them.


Sam almost fell off Tina’s lap at the unexpected sound, but strong arms held her securely as the accountant rotated the chair to face her boss. “Hi, Viv.”


“Hello.” Vivian smiled at the sight of the women nestled together. “Nice to see you again, Samantha.”


“It’s nice to see you again, too.” Blushing in embarrassment at the circumstances in which she’d been caught, Sam wriggled out of her partner’s grip and stood up. “Umm… we were just about to go to the Cactus Club. Would you like to join us?”


“Thank you, but no. I’ve got a little more work to do here and then I’m meeting a friend for dinner. Perhaps another time.”


“I’d like that.”


Tina shut down the computer and put her glasses in her backpack. Vivian accompanied the couple to the door where they exchanged good-byes.


As they walked to the restaurant, Sam excitedly commented on the large Christmas tree in the middle of the park and a stage with risers that the musician was sure would be for some sort of choral group. “This is going to be SO cool, don’t you think?”


“Yes.” Because I get to share it with you.


The Cactus Club was packed and the women had a drink at the bar before being shown to a table. Sam looked at the menu and quickly decided to get the same cheeseburger she’d ordered the last time. “Can we bring my dad here when he visits? He’d like this place.”




“He’s REALLY going to like you.”


“I don’t know about that. I certainly hope he does.”


“He’s always told me he just wants me to be happy.” Sam reassured her partner. “And you make me VERY happy.”


“He…” Tina stopped speaking as the waiter approached to take their orders. She waited until he left to continue. “Your dad totally accepts that you’re gay?”


“Yes. It was one of the things my parents disagreed about before they… divorced.” Sam looked down at the table. “I think it might have been the final straw…”


“We don’t have to talk about it…”


“It’s okay. I… I should have told you. It’s been… hard… knowing that I was partially responsible.”


“They’re adults. They made their own decisions.”


“True, but I can understand why my mom is terribly upset with me. First she finds out her daughter is gay, then her husband sides with the kid.” Sam sighed heavily. “It’s been a big mess.”


“We’ll get through it…” Tina reached across the table and laid her hand over Sam’s, “…together.”


Misty green eyes rose to meet pale blue. “I love you.”


“You’re trying to butter me up so I’ll buy you ice cream later.”


Sam smiled, appreciative of the attempt to lighten the mood. “Maybe you want to buy the ice cream to butter ME up… so you can have your way with me when we get home.”


“I think it’s an exceptional strategy.” Tina raised an eyebrow. “Will it work?”




They laughed and went on to chat about less serious subjects. By the time they stepped outside, it was dark. There were sparkling white lights in the shop windows, along the walkways and in the oak trees around the park. Holiday music played over speakers located throughout the area. A large crowd had congregated, waiting for the program to begin.


Tina guided Sam to one of the trees on the periphery. She positioned the smaller woman in front of her where they both would have an excellent view of the proceedings.


“This is a great spot.”


“Glad you like it.” Tina grinned. She had spent the better part of her lunch break checking out the vicinity, trying to determine the best place to stand.


It wasn’t too long before a choir dressed in silky red robes and several dignitaries assembled on the stage. The music was turned off and an older gentleman approached the microphone. He welcomed everyone and introduced a local minister who would be leading the group in an invocation. A hush fell over the gathering as the minister said, “Let us pray.”


Tina bent her head down slightly and watched her partner, who had her head bowed and hands folded. At the conclusion of the prayer, the blonde joined the majority of the people who said, “Amen.”


There were a few short speeches as sponsors of the event were recognized and thanked. The president of the Hyde Park Business Association had the honor of lighting the tree and did so with much fanfare. The spectators responded with thunderous applause.


Sam glanced over her shoulder at Tina. “Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL?”


“Indeed it is.”


The choir began singing carols and Sam chimed in. She leaned back against the taller woman and was pleasantly surprised when a long arm curled around her waist and stayed there.


Tina surveyed their immediate surroundings, relieved that everyone was focusing on the stage and paying no attention to the two of them standing closely together. She didn’t sing, preferring to listen to Sam’s voice mingle with those of the choir and audience.


The program ended and the crowd began to disperse. The blonde turned and looked up at Tina. “Are we going shopping now?”


“Shopping?” In this mob?


“Yeah! We’re here, the stores are open, Christmas is coming… shopping seems like a good idea.”


N…O… two little letters. Put them together and you get… “Okay.”


They wandered through the stores. Sam bought some gifts, explaining to Tina why they were perfect for the recipients she had in mind. In the upscale hardware store that was supposed to be reminiscent of an old general mercantile, Sam had a field day looking at the wide variety of items on display. “Look at this!” She worked one of the metal clasps on a bright yellow raincoat. “Remember these? I had one with matching galoshes.”


“So did I. I hated the hat that went with it, but my mother made me wear it anyway.”


“I’d like to see a picture of THAT.” Sam laughed. “Oh! Isn’t this cute?” She picked up a tiny flashlight out of a bin. The top rotated 360 degrees and was designed to fit into tight spaces. “Mike could use one of these.” She struggled with it, twisting the handle and top, trying to find the on/off mechanism. “How the heck do you turn it on?”


Tina took the flashlight and promptly twisted the bottommost section of the handle. The light popped on and off. “There you go.” She smirked and gave it back.


“Show off.” Sam tossed the thing back in the bin. “Let’s go to The Sharper Image.”


They crossed the street and went into the store. Tina began playing with gadgets while Sam browsed around. The younger woman was absorbed in her shopping when an object hit her neck. She picked up a sponge disk, approximately the size of a quarter, that had landed on the counter next to her. What’s this? Looking to her left and right, she could see nothing that seemed out of the ordinary.


Tina chuckled from the end of the aisle. She loaded more disks into the shooter designed like a starship from a popular television series. Creeping closer to her target, she took careful aim.


“AH HA!” Sam whirled and faced her would-be assailant. “Caught ya!”


“W… what?” Tina hid the toy behind her back.


“I know what you’re up to…”




“Yes… YOU.” Sam reached behind the woman and grabbed the weapon. “Now it’s MY turn.”


Tina dashed away with the blonde in hot pursuit. Several shots hit their mark before the couple dissolved into laughter near the door. An employee eyed them warily and Sam laid the toy on the counter. “Umm… we’d better leave before we get in trouble.”


Hurrying outside onto the sidewalk full of shoppers, they became part of the flow walking in the direction of the ice cream store.


“So, it’s about time we got some ice… ” Sam was stopped in her tracks when Tina’s arm suddenly extended in front of her. The people behind them crashed into their backs. “Ugh!” She looked up at her partner. “What are you doing?”


Tina was standing completely still, staring at something in the distance. She didn’t answer.


“T?” Sam balanced on her tiptoes in an unsuccessful effort to see above people’s heads. “What is it?”


“Samantha… I’m sorry.”


Something’s wrong. “What IS it?”


Tina turned her head slowly and looked into concerned green eyes. “It’s Andi.”



To be continued…



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